Keyword: astronomy

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  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- W5: Pillars of Star Formation

    12/16/2014 2:05:46 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 7 replies
    NASA ^ | December 16, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: How do stars form? Images of the star forming region W5 like those in the infrared by NASA's Wide Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) satellite provide clear clues with indications that massive stars near the center of empty cavities are older than stars near the edges. A likely reason for this is that the older stars in the center are actually triggering the formation of the younger edge stars. The triggered star formation occurs when hot outflowing gas compresses cooler gas into knots dense enough to gravitationally contract into stars. In the featured scientifically-colored infrared image, spectacular pillars, left...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- The Potsdam Gravity Potato

    12/15/2014 3:22:41 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 50 replies
    NASA ^ | December 15, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Why do some places on Earth have higher gravity than others? Sometimes the reason is unknown. To help better understand the Earth's surface, sensitive measurments by the orbiting satellites GRACE and CHAMP were used to create a map of Earth's gravitational field. Since a center for studying this data is in Potsdam, Germany, and since the result makes the Earth look somewhat like a potato, the resulting geoid has been referred to as the Potsdam Gravity Potato. High areas on this map, colored red, indicate areas where gravity is slightly stronger than usual, while in blue areas gravity is...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Molecular Cloud Barnard 68

    12/14/2014 8:07:43 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 16 replies
    NASA ^ | December 14, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Where did all the stars go? What used to be considered a hole in the sky is now known to astronomers as a dark molecular cloud. Here, a high concentration of dust and molecular gas absorb practically all the visible light emitted from background stars. The eerily dark surroundings help make the interiors of molecular clouds some of the coldest and most isolated places in the universe. One of the most notable of these dark absorption nebulae is a cloud toward the constellation Ophiuchus known as Barnard 68, pictured above. That no stars are visible in the center indicates...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- The Infrared Visible Andromeda

    12/13/2014 5:49:17 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 4 replies
    NASA ^ | December 13, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: This remarkable synthetic color composite image was assembled from archives of visible light and infrared astronomy image data. The field of view spans the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), a massive spiral a mere 2.5 million light-years away. In fact, with over twice the diameter of our own Milky Way, Andromeda is the largest nearby galaxy. Andromeda's population of bright young blue stars lie along its sweeping spiral arms, with the telltale reddish glow of star forming regions traced in space- and ground-based visible light data. But infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope, also blended directly into the detailed composite's...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Crystals on Mars

    12/13/2014 5:44:56 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 11 replies
    NASA ^ | December 12, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: This extreme close-up, a mosaic from the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) on the Curiosity rover, spans a breathtaking 5 centimeters. It captures what appear to be elongated crystal shapes formed by the precipitation of minerals dissolved in water, a likely result of the evaporation of ancient lake or river from the Martian surface. Brushed by a dust removal tool and illuminated by white LEDs, the target rock named Mojave was found on the Pink Cliffs outcrop of the Pahrump Hills at the base of Mount Sharp. The MAHLI images were acquired on Curiosity's sol 809, known on planet...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Moondog Night

    12/11/2014 7:16:15 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 6 replies
    NASA ^ | December 11, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: In this night scene from the early hours of November 14, light from a last quarter Moon illuminates clouds above the mountaintop domes of Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, Arizona. Bright Jupiter is just left of the overexposed lunar disk with a streak of camera lens flare immediately to the right, but that's no fireball meteor exploding near the center of the picture. Instead, from the roadside perspective a stunningly bright moondog or paraselene stands directly over Kitt Peaks's WIYN telescope. Analogous to a sundog or parhelion, a paraselene is produced by moonlight refracted through thin, hexagonal, plate-shaped...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- The Reddening of M71

    12/10/2014 10:07:57 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 2 replies
    NASA ^ | December 10, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Now known to be a globular star cluster at the tender age of 10 billion years, M71 is a mere 13,000 light-years away within the narrow boundaries of the faint constellation Sagitta. Close to the plane of the Milky Way galaxy in planet Earth's sky, its 10,000 or so member stars are gathered into a region about 27 light-years across near the center of this color composite view. In fact, the line-of-sight to M71 passes along the galactic plane through much intervening diffuse interstellar dust. The dust dims starlight and scatters blue light more efficiently, masking the brightness of...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- The Flame Nebula in Visible and Infrared

    12/10/2014 10:04:49 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 5 replies
    NASA ^ | December 09, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: What lights up the Flame Nebula? Fifteen hundred light years away towards the constellation of Orion lies a nebula which, from its glow and dark dust lanes, appears, on the left, like a billowing fire. But fire, the rapid acquisition of oxygen, is not what makes this Flame glow. Rather the bright star Alnitak, the easternmost star in the Belt of Orion visible just to the right of the nebula, shines energetic light into the Flame that knocks electrons away from the great clouds of hydrogen gas that reside there. Much of the glow results when the electrons and...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Wanderers

    12/08/2014 7:53:19 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 16 replies
    NASA ^ | December 08, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: How far out will humanity explore? If this video's fusion of real space imagery and fictional space visualizations is on the right track, then at least the Solar System. Some of the video's wondrous sequences depict future humans drifting through the rings of Saturn, exploring Jupiter from a nearby spacecraft, and jumping off a high cliff in the low gravity of a moon of Uranus. Although no one can know the future, wandering and exploring beyond boundaries -- both physical and intellectual -- is part of the human spirit and has frequently served humanity well in the past.
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Aurora Shimmer, Meteor Flash

    12/07/2014 9:13:20 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 6 replies
    NASA ^ | December 07, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Northern Lights, aurora borealis, haunted skies over the island of Kvalřya, near Tromsř Norway on 2009 December 13. This 30 second long exposure records their shimmering glow gently lighting the wintery coastal scene. A study in contrasts, it also captures the sudden flash of a fireball meteor from the excellent Geminid meteor shower in 2009 December. Streaking past familiar stars in the handle of the Big Dipper, the trail points back toward the constellation Gemini, off the top of the view. Both aurora and meteors occur in Earth's upper atmosphere at altitudes of 100 kilometers or so, but aurora...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Orion Launch

    12/06/2014 1:08:37 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 11 replies
    NASA ^ | December 06, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Headed for two orbits of planet Earth and a splashdown in the Pacific, Orion blazed into the early morning sky on Friday at 7:05am ET. The spacecraft was launched atop a United Launch Aliance Delta IV Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Its first voyage into space on an uncrewed flight test, the Orion traveled some 3,600 miles from Earth, about 15 times higher than the orbital altitude of the International Space Station. In fact, Orion traveled farther into space than any spacecraft designed for astronauts since the Apollo missions to the Moon. The Orion...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Milky Way over Moon Valley

    12/06/2014 1:06:04 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 13 replies
    NASA ^ | December 05, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Our Milky Way Galaxy arcs over a desolate landscape in this fantastic panoramic night skyview. The otherworldly scene looks across the arid, eroded terrain of the Valle de la Luna in the Chilean Atacama desert. Just along the horizon are lights from San Pedro, Chile, as well as the small villages of Socaire and Toconao, and a tortuous road from the city of Calama to San Pedro. Taken on October 18th, the five panel mosaic also features the four galaxies easily visible from our fair planet's dark sky regions. At the far left, satellite galaxies known as the Large...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Plato and the Lunar Alps

    12/04/2014 2:05:05 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 5 replies
    NASA ^ | December 04, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: The dark-floored, 95 kilometer wide crater Plato and sunlit peaks of the lunar Alps (Montes Alpes) are highlighted in this sharp digital snapshot of the Moon's surface. While the Alps of planet Earth were uplifted over millions of years as continental plates slowly collided, the lunar Alps were likely formed by a sudden collision that created the giant impact basin known as the Mare Imbrium or Sea of Rains. The mare's generally smooth, lava-flooded floor is seen below the boardering mountain range. The prominent straight feature cutting through the mountains is the lunar Alpine Valley (Vallis Alpes). Joining the...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Sharpless 249 and the Jellyfish Nebula

    12/04/2014 2:01:46 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 3 replies
    NASA ^ | December 03, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Normally faint and elusive, the Jellyfish Nebula is caught in this alluring telescopic mosaic. The scene is anchored right and left by two bright stars, Mu and Eta Geminorum, at the foot of the celestial twin while the Jellyfish Nebula is the brighter arcing ridge of emission with dangling tentacles below and right of center. In fact, the cosmic jellyfish is part of bubble-shaped supernova remnant IC 443, the expanding debris cloud from a massive star that exploded. Light from the explosion first reached planet Earth over 30,000 years ago. Like its cousin in astrophysical waters the Crab Nebula...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Eta Carinae and the Expanding Homunculus Nebula

    12/04/2014 1:59:03 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 7 replies
    NASA ^ | December 02, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: How did the Eta Carinae star system create this unusual expanding nebula? No one knows for sure. About 170 years ago, the southern star system Eta Carinae (Eta Car) mysteriously became the second brightest star system in the night sky. Twenty years later, after ejecting more mass than our Sun, Eta Car unexpectedly faded. Somehow, this outburst appears to have created the Homunculus Nebula. The three-frame video features images of the nebula taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in 1995, 2001, and 2008. The Homunculus nebula's center is lit by light from a bright central star, while the surrounding...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Stars and Dust Pillars in NGC 7822 from WISE

    12/04/2014 1:55:52 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 4 replies
    NASA ^ | December 01, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Hot, young stars and cosmic pillars of gas and dust seem to crowd into NGC 7822. At the edge of a giant molecular cloud toward the northern constellation Cepheus, this glowing star forming region lies about 3,000 light-years away. Within the nebula, bright edges and complex dust sculptures dominate this detailed skyscape taken in infrared light by NASA's Wide Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) satellite. The atomic emission by the cluster's gas is powered by energetic radiation from the hot stars, whose powerful winds and light also sculpt and erode the denser pillar shapes. Stars could still be forming...
  • Spacecraft Bound for Pluto Set to Awake Nine Years After Launch

    12/02/2014 2:06:45 PM PST · by Red Badger · 53 replies
    ABC News ^ | Dec 1, 2014, 5:03 PM ET | By JOHN FISCHER
    NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is set to awake on Dec. 6 from the last of its 18 hibernation periods and prepare for its initial approach towards Pluto, which will take place on Jan. 15. The spacecraft is scheduled to come as close as 6,200 miles from the surface of Pluto on July 14, 2015 -- the closest any man-made object has come to the dwarf planet. The mission marks the first visit outside Neptune's orbit to the Kuiper Belt, which consists of Pluto and thousands of objects that have not yet been identified, according to Spaceflight Now, a space news...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- The Seahorse of the Large Magellanic Cloud

    11/30/2014 6:20:52 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 12 replies
    NASA ^ | November 30, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: It may look like a grazing seahorse, but the dark object toward the image right is actually a pillar of smoky dust about 20 light years long. The curiously-shaped dust structure occurs in our neighboring Large Magellanic Cloud, in a star forming region very near the expansive Tarantula Nebula. The energetic nebula is creating a star cluster, NGC 2074, whose center is visible just off the top of the image in the direction of the neck of the seahorse. The representative color image was taken last year by the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 in honor...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- 3D 67P

    11/29/2014 4:07:38 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 9 replies
    NASA ^ | November 29, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Get out your red/blue glasses and float next to a comet! The Rosetta mission lander Philae's ROLIS camera snapped the two frames used to create this stereo anaglyph for 3D viewing during its November 12 descent to the nucleus of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The comet's curious double lobed nucleus is seen nearly end on from a distance of about 3 kilometers, about 1 hour before Philae arrived at the surface. Philae's initial landing site is near the center of the front facing lobe. Part of a landing gear foot cuts across the upper right corner, in the close foreground of...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Portrait of NGC 281

    11/29/2014 4:05:48 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 4 replies
    NASA ^ | November 28, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Look through the cosmic cloud cataloged as NGC 281 and you might miss the stars of open cluster IC 1590. But, formed within the nebula, that cluster's young, massive stars ultimately power the pervasive nebular glow. The eye-catching shapes looming in this portrait of NGC 281 are sculpted columns and dense dust globules seen in silhouette, eroded by intense, energetic winds and radiation from the hot cluster stars. If they survive long enough, the dusty structures could also be sites of future star formation. Playfully called the Pacman Nebula because of its overall shape, NGC 281 is about 10,000...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Galileo's Europa Remastered

    11/29/2014 4:02:05 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 15 replies
    NASA ^ | November 27, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Looping through the Jovian system in the late 1990s, the Galileo spacecraft recorded stunning views of Europa and uncovered evidence that the moon's icy surface likely hides a deep, global ocean. Galileo's Europa image data has been newly remastered here, using improved new calibrations to produce a color image approximating what the human eye might see. Europa's long curving fractures hint at the subsurface liquid water. The tidal flexing the large moon experiences in its elliptical orbit around Jupiter supplies the energy to keep the ocean liquid. But more tantalizing is the possibility that even in the absence of...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Io and Callisto Mutual Event

    11/26/2014 5:23:54 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 6 replies
    NASA ^ | November 26, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: A 24 minute sequence from top to bottom, this intriguing series of telescopic frames tracks the occultation of Io by Callisto, two of Jupiter's Galilean moons, from San Pietro Polesine, Italy, planet Earth. A challenging observational project using a small telescope, the two contrasting Jovian worlds are both slightly larger than Earth's Moon. In fact, bright, volcanic Io and dark, cratered Callisto are about 3,640 and 4,820 kilometers in diameter respectively. With Earth itself now crossing near the orbital plane of Jupiter's moons, astronomers are enjoying a season of Galilean moon mutual events ranging from eclipses to occultations. The...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- The Creature from the Red Lagoon

    11/25/2014 8:55:15 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 4 replies
    NASA ^ | November 25, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: What creature lurks near the red Lagoon nebula? Mars. This gorgeous color deep-sky photograph has captured the red planet passing below two notable nebulae -- cataloged by the 18th century cosmic registrar Charles Messier as M8 and M20. M20 (upper right of center), the Trifid Nebula, presents a striking contrast in red/blue colors and dark dust lanes. Just below and to the left is the expansive, alluring red glow of M8, the Lagoon Nebula. Both nebulae are a few thousand light-years distant. By comparison, temporarily situated below them both, is the dominant "local" celestial beacon Mars. Taken late last...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Soaring over Titan

    11/24/2014 12:45:57 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 8 replies
    NASA ^ | November 24, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: What would it look like to fly over Titan? Radar images from NASA's robotic Cassini satellite in orbit around Saturn have been digitally compiled to simulate such a flight. Cassini has swooped past Saturn's cloudiest moon several times since it arrived at the ringed planet in 2004. The virtual flight featured here shows numerous lakes colored black and mountainous terrain colored tan. Surface regions without detailed vertical information appear more flat, while sufficiently mapped regions have their heights digitally stretched. Among the basins visualized is Kraken Mare, Titan's largest lake which spans over 1,000 kilometers long. Titan's lakes are...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Tornado and Rainbow Over Kansas

    11/23/2014 11:41:49 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 10 replies
    NASA ^ | November 23, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: The scene might have been considered serene if it weren't for the tornado. During 2004 in Kansas, storm chaser Eric Nguyen photographed this budding twister in a different light -- the light of a rainbow. Featured here, a white tornado cloud descends from a dark storm cloud. The Sun, peeking through a clear patch of sky to the left, illuminates some buildings in the foreground. Sunlight reflects off raindrops to form a rainbow. By coincidence, the tornado appears to end right over the rainbow. Streaks in the image are hail being swept about by the high swirling winds. Over...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Solar Flare from a Sharper Sun

    11/23/2014 11:38:14 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 6 replies
    NASA ^ | November 22, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Solar active region AR2192 was the largest recorded sunspot group of the last 24 years. Before rotating off the Earth-facing side of the Sun at the end of October, it produced a whopping six energetic X-class flares. Its most intense flare was captured on October 24 in this stunning view from the orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory. The scene is a color combination of images made at three different wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet light; 193 angstroms shown in blue, 171 angstroms in white, and 304 angstroms in red. The emission, from highly ionized Iron and Helium atoms, traces magnetic field...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- M1: The Crab Nebula

    11/23/2014 11:14:59 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 16 replies
    NASA ^ | November 21, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: The Crab Nebula is cataloged as M1, the first object on Charles Messier's famous 18th century list of things which are not comets. In fact, the Crab is now known to be a supernova remnant, debris from the death explosion of a massive star, witnessed by astronomers in the year 1054. This sharp, ground-based telescopic view uses narrowband data to track emission from ionized oxygen and hydrogen atoms (in blue and red) and explore the tangled filaments within the still expanding cloud. One of the most exotic objects known to modern astronomers, the Crab Pulsar, a neutron star spinning...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- LDN 988: Dark Nebula in Cygnus

    11/23/2014 11:11:15 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 2 replies
    NASA ^ | November 20, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Obscuring the rich starfields of northern Cygnus, dark nebula LDN 988 lies near the center of this cosmic skyscape. Composed with telescope and camera, the scene is some 2 degrees across. That corresponds to 70 light-years at the estimated 2,000 light-year distance of LDN 988. Stars are forming within LDN 988, part of a larger complex of dusty molecular clouds along the plane of our Milky Way galaxy sometimes called the Northern Coalsack. In fact, nebulosities associated with young stars abound in the region, including variable star V1331 Cygni shown in the inset. At the tip of a long...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Bright Spiral Galaxy M81

    11/23/2014 11:07:51 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 3 replies
    NASA ^ | November 19, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: One of the brightest galaxies in planet Earth's sky is similar in size to our Milky Way Galaxy: big, beautiful M81. This grand spiral galaxy can be found toward the northern constellation of the Great Bear (Ursa Major). This superbly detailed view reveals M81's bright yellow nucleus, blue spiral arms, and sweeping cosmic dust lanes with a scale comparable to the Milky Way. Hinting at a disorderly past, a remarkable dust lane actually runs straight through the disk, to the left of the galactic center, contrary to M81's other prominent spiral features. The errant dust lane may be the...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Star Formation in the Tadpole Nebula

    11/23/2014 10:51:40 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 12 replies
    NASA ^ | November 18, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Dusty emission in the Tadpole nebula, IC 410, lies about 12,000 light-years away in the northern constellation Auriga. The cloud of glowing gas is over 100 light-years across, sculpted by stellar winds and radiation from embedded open star cluster NGC 1893. Formed in the interstellar cloud a mere 4 million years ago, bright cluster stars are seen all around the star-forming nebula. Notable near the image center are two relatively dense streamers of material trailing away from the nebula's central regions. Potentially sites of ongoing star formation in IC 410, these cosmic tadpole shapes are about 10 light-years long....
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- The Double Dust Disks of HD 95086

    11/22/2014 11:08:37 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 6 replies
    NASA ^ | November 17, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: What do other star systems look like? To help find out, astronomers are carrying out detailed observations of nearby stars in infrared light to see which have dust disks that might be forming planets. Observations by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and ESA's Herschel Space Observatory have found that planetary system HD 95086 has two dust disks: a hot one near the parent star and a cooler one farther out. An artist's illustration of how the system might appear is featured here, including hypothetical planets with large rings that orbit between the disks. The planets may have created the large...
  • Throwback Thursday: Seeing through our galaxy

    11/21/2014 10:58:31 PM PST · by LibWhacker · 7 replies
    Medium ^ | 11/20/14 | Ethan Siegel
    When we look out at the Universe, our view is pretty consistently dominated by the stars within our own galaxy. Although we know that many interesting things lie beyond — globular clusters, individual galaxies, and rich clusters and superclusters of galaxies — being in the Milky Way makes it very hard to see a great many of them. This is because our own galaxy, from our vantage point within it, dominates a huge fraction of the sky overhead. Image credit: Richard Payne, of Arizona Astrophotography.The plane of the Milky Way itself obscures about a total of 20% of our night sky. What appears...
  • NASA Builds A Time-Machine Telescope 100 Times As Powerful As The Hubble

    11/18/2014 2:32:23 PM PST · by zeestephen · 67 replies
    MSN.com ^ | 18 November 2014 | Eric Niler
    Inside a very big and very clean room at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., nearly 30 workers dressed in white protective suits, goggles and blue booties cluster around the parts of a time machine. These parts — gold-covered mirrors, tennis-court-size sun shields, delicate infrared cameras — are slowly being put together to become the James Webb Space Telescope.
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Leonids Above Torre de la Guaita [1999]

    11/16/2014 3:33:42 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 4 replies
    NASA ^ | November 16, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Leonids Meteor Shower came to an impressive crescendo in 1999. Observers in Europe saw a sharp peak in the number of meteors visible around 0210 UTC during the early morning hours of November 18. Meteor counts then exceeded 1000 per hour - the minimum needed to define a true meteor storm. At other times and from other locations around the world, observers typically reported respectable rates of between 30 and 100 meteors per hour. This photograph is a 20-minute exposure ending just before the main Leonids peak began. Visible are at least five Leonid meteors streaking high above the...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- The Tulip Nebula

    11/15/2014 3:06:21 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 2 replies
    NASA ^ | November 15, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Framing a bright emission region this telescopic view looks out along the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy toward the nebula rich constellation Cygnus the Swan. Popularly called the Tulip Nebula the glowing cloud of interstellar gas and dust is also found in the 1959 catalog by astronomer Stewart Sharpless as Sh2-101. About 8,000 light-years distant and 70 light-years across the complex and beautiful nebula blossoms at the center of this composite image. Red, green, and blue hues map emission from ionized sulfur, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms. Ultraviolet radiation from young, energetic stars at the edge of the Cygnus...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Welcome to a Comet

    11/15/2014 3:06:17 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 16 replies
    NASA ^ | November 14, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: The Rosetta Mission lander is safely on a comet. One of Philae's feet appears at the bottom left of this spectacular image of the surface of C67/P Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Still a happy lander, Philae bounced twice before settling and returning images from the surface, traveling a kilometer or so after initially touching at the targeted site Agilkia. A surface panorama suggests that the lander has come to rest tilted and near a shadowing wall, with its solar panels getting less illumination that hoped. Philae's science instruments are working as planned and data is being relayed during communications windows, when the...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Descent to a Comet

    11/13/2014 2:43:12 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 24 replies
    NASA ^ | November 13, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Yesterday, the first soft landing on a comet took place some 500 million kilometers from planet Earth as the Rosetta mission lander Philae settled on the nucleus of C67/P Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The landing site, dubbed Agilkia, is located near the center of this remarkable image snapped by Philae's ROLIS (ROsetta Lander Imaging System) camera. Taken from a distance of about 3 kilometers the image has a resolution of about 3 meters per pixel at the surface. After Philae's release from the orbiter, its seven-hour long descent was made without propulsion or guidance. Following its descent the lander is in place,...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Philae Attempts Comet Nucleus Landing

    11/13/2014 2:40:03 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 11 replies
    NASA ^ | November 12, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Today humanity will make its first attempt to land a probe on the nucleus of a comet. As the day progresses, the Philae (fee-LAY) lander will separate from the Rosetta spacecraft and head down to the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Since the texture of the comet's surface is unknown and its surface gravity is surely low, Philae will then attempt to harpoon itself down, something that has never been done before. Featured here is an artist's illustration of dishwasher-sized Philae as it might look on Comet Churyumov–Gerasimenko's surface, along with explanation balloons detailing onboard scientific instruments. Many people on...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Orion in Gas, Dust, and Stars

    11/13/2014 2:37:10 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 3 replies
    NASA ^ | November 11, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: The constellation of Orion holds much more than three stars in a row. A deep exposure shows everything from dark nebula to star clusters, all embedded in an extended patch of gaseous wisps in the greater Orion Molecular Cloud Complex. The brightest three stars on the far left are indeed the famous three stars that make up the belt of Orion. Just below Alnitak, the lowest of the three belt stars, is the Flame Nebula, glowing with excited hydrogen gas and immersed in filaments of dark brown dust. Below and left of the frame center and just to the...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- The Protoplanetary Disk of HL Tauri from ALMA

    11/13/2014 2:34:43 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 7 replies
    NASA ^ | November 10, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Why does this giant disk have gaps? The exciting and probable answer is: planets. A mystery is how planets massive enough to create these gaps formed so quickly, since the HL Tauri star system is only about one million years old. The picture on which the gaps were discovered was taken with the new Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) of telescopes in Chile. ALMA imaged the protoplanetary disk, which spans about 1,500 light-minutes across, in unprecedented detail, resolving features as small as 40 light minutes. The low energy light used by ALMA was also able to peer through an...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- The Cat's Eye Nebula from Hubble

    11/08/2014 9:29:02 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 11 replies
    NASA ^ | November 09, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: To some, it may look like a cat's eye. The alluring Cat's Eye nebula, however, lies three thousand light-years from Earth across interstellar space. A classic planetary nebula, the Cat's Eye (NGC 6543) represents a final, brief yet glorious phase in the life of a sun-like star. This nebula's dying central star may have produced the simple, outer pattern of dusty concentric shells by shrugging off outer layers in a series of regular convulsions. But the formation of the beautiful, more complex inner structures is not well understood. Seen so clearly in this digitally sharpened Hubble Space Telescope image,...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Polar Ring Galaxy NGC 660

    11/08/2014 9:27:41 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 3 replies
    NASA ^ | November 08, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: NGC 660 is featured in this cosmic snapshot, a sharp composite of broad and narrow band filter image data from the Gemini North telescope on Mauna Kea. Over 20 million light-years away and swimming within the boundaries of the constellation Pisces, NGC 660's peculiar appearance marks it as a polar ring galaxy. A rare galaxy type, polar ring galaxies have a substantial population of stars, gas, and dust orbiting in rings nearly perpendicular to the plane of the galactic disk. The bizarre-looking configuration could have been caused by the chance capture of material from a passing galaxy by a...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- The Map of Dione

    11/06/2014 11:10:20 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 4 replies
    NASA ^ | November 07, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: This cylindrical projection global map is one of six new color maps of Saturn's midsized icy moons, constructed using 10 years of image data from the Cassini spacecraft. Discovered by Cassini (the astronomer) in 1684, Dione is about 1,120 kilometers across. Based on data extending from infrared to ultraviolet, the full resolution of this latest space-age map is 250 meters per pixel. The remarkable brightness difference between the tidally locked moon's lighter leading hemisphere (right) and darker trailing hemisphere clearly stands out. Like other Saturn moons orbiting within the broad E-ring, Dione's leading hemisphere is kept shiny as it...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Sh2-155: The Cave Nebula

    11/06/2014 11:07:45 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 6 replies
    NASA ^ | November 06, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: This colorful skyscape features the dusty Sharpless catalog emission region Sh2-155, the Cave Nebula. In the composite image, data taken through narrowband filters tracks the glow of ionized sulfur, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms in red, green, and blue hues. About 2,400 light-years away, the scene lies along the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy toward the royal northern constellation of Cepheus. Astronomical explorations of the region reveal that it has formed at the boundary of the massive Cepheus B molecular cloud and the hot, young stars of the Cepheus OB 3 association. The bright rim of ionized interstellar gas...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- NGC 4762: A Galaxy on the Edge

    11/06/2014 11:04:43 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 2 replies
    NASA ^ | November 05, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Why is there a bright line on the sky? What is pictured above is actually a disk galaxy being seen almost perfectly edge on. The image from the Hubble Space Telescope is a spectacular visual reminder of just how thin disk galaxies can be. NGC 4762, a galaxy in the nearby Virgo Cluster of Galaxies, is so thin that it is actually difficult to determine what type of disk galaxy it is. Its lack of a visible dust lane indicates that it is a low-dust lenticular galaxy, although it is still possible that a view from on top would...
  • Titanic Liquid: Blinding ‘Sunglint’ Shines On Saturn’s Swampy Moon

    11/03/2014 5:34:44 PM PST · by BenLurkin · 11 replies
    universetoday.com ^ | November 3, 2014 | Elizabeth Howell
    That’s what the Sun looks like reflecting off the seas of Titan, that moon of Saturn that excites astrobiologists because its chemistry resembles what early Earth could have looked like. This image represents the first time this “sunglint” and Titan’s northern polar seas have been captured in one mosaic, NASA said. What’s more, if you look closely at the sea surrounding the sunlight, you can see what scientists dub a “bathtub ring.” Besides looking pretty, this image from the Cassini spacecraft shows the huge sea (called Kraken Mare) was actually larger at some point in Titan’s past. “The southern portion...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Moon and Earth from Chang'e 5-T1

    11/03/2014 9:12:47 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 4 replies
    NASA ^ | November 04, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Described at times as a big blue marble, from some vantage points Earth looks more like a small blue marble. Such was the case in this iconic image of the Earth and Moon system taken by the Chang'e 5-T1 mission last week. The Moon appears larger than the Earth because it was much closer to the spacecraft's camera. Displaying much of a surface usually hidden from Earth, the Moon appears dark and gray when compared to the more reflective and colorful planet that it orbits. The robotic Chang'e 5-T1 spacecraft, predominantly on an engineering test mission, rounded the Moon...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- In Green Company: Aurora over Norway

    11/03/2014 4:17:15 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 4 replies
    NASA ^ | November 03, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Raise your arms if you see an aurora. With those instructions, two nights went by with, well, clouds -- mostly. On the third night of returning to same peaks, though, the sky not only cleared up but lit up with a spectacular auroral display. Arms went high in the air, patience and experience paid off, and the amazing featured image was captured. The setting is a summit of the Austnesfjorden fjord close to the town of Svolvear on the Lofoten islands in northern Norway. The time was early March. Our Sun has been producing an abundance of picturesque aurora...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Titan Beyond the Rings

    11/02/2014 3:09:25 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 11 replies
    NASA ^ | November 02, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: When orbiting Saturn, be sure to watch for breathtaking superpositions of moons and rings. One such picturesque vista was visible recently to the robot Cassini spacecraft now orbiting Saturn. In 2006 April, Cassini captured Saturn's A and F rings stretching in front of cloud-shrouded Titan. Near the rings and appearing just above Titan was Epimetheus, a moon which orbits just outside the F ring. The dark space in the A ring is called the Encke Gap, although several thin knotted ringlets and even the small moon Pan orbit there.
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- The Day After Mars

    10/31/2014 9:37:30 PM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 5 replies
    NASA ^ | November 01, 2014 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: October 31, 1938 was the day after Martians encountered planet Earth, and everything was calm. Reports of the invasion were revealed to be part of a Halloween radio drama, the now famous broadcast based on H.G. Wells' scifi novel War of the Worlds. On Mars October 20, 2014 was calm too, the day after its close encounter with Comet Siding Spring. Not a hoax, this comet really did come within 86,700 miles or so of Mars, about 1/3 the Earth-Moon distance. Earth's spacecraft and rovers in Mars orbit and on the surface reported no ill effects though, and had...